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Outside the Work: A Tasting of Hydrocarbons and Geologic Time

In March of 2014, Marina Zurkow transformed the mid-century modern feel of Rice’s Brochstein Pavilion into a setting representative of the deep time of the Anthropocene, decorated by styrofoam structures, supplied with petroelum-derived plastic materials, and even featuring Zurkow’s own environmentally-inspired animations looping on television sets. The project, titled “Outside the Work: A Tasting of Hydrocarbons and Geologic Time,” was intended to expose the everyday nature of the Anthropocene by scaling a period as vast as a geological epoch down to the most quotidian of all events: dinner. An assortment of students, artists, scholars, journalists, and local Houstonians came together to take a journey led by Zurkow through the deep time of the Anthropocene, bringing together the long-lasting petroproducts we often fail to notice, the lifeforms they positively and negatively effect, and the humans at the center of it all. Zurkow collaborated with innovative New York chefs from Lucullan Foods to construct the menu, settling on a Gulf Coast theme ranging from the familiar tastes of Texas Toast, St. Arnold’s beer, and granita from Texas grapefruit, to more unusual items like cannonball jellyfish, sardine skeleton chips, and blue-green algae shooters. One of the aims of Zurkow’s project was to bring together some of the humans and nonhumans who have found themselves inextricably tangled up with one another in a new geological epoch defined by large-scale, rapid changes to the chemical and biological composition of the planet.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Lane